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Tips, Tools + Techniques for Making Bone Broth at Home

Tips, Tools + Techniques for Making Bone Broth at Home

How To Make The Best Bone Broth

By Chef Marco Canora & Team Brodo

Marco Canora was recently awarded Best Chef - New York by the James Beard Foundation, and has been nominated five other times, including Best Restaurant in America for Hearth, which he has owned and operated for 13 years.

He is the author of: Salt to Taste: The Keys To Confident, Delicious Cooking, and A Good Food Day and Brodo: A bone broth cookbook. He lives in New York with the three loves of his life, his wife Amanda and daughters Stella and Zadie.

The professional restaurant community has always made a slight but important distinction between stock and bone broth, using stock to refer to the unseasoned foundation used for sauces and other dishes. Home cooks and commercial products generally use the terms interchangeably.

Once the paleo community embraced the term “bone broth,” though, conflicting definitions emerged, confusing and complicating the matter. The truth is that there isn’t really a significant difference between stocks and broths, or Bone Broths and “regular” broths, but there is a huge difference in quality when you know how to make the best Bone Broth.

Many of these have the same foundation: water in a pot with meat scraps, bones, and vegetables. I want my brodo to have both flavor and body, so I make a broth-stock hybrid using a specific balance of meat and bones. For now, saying “bone broths” distinguishes homemade, long-simmered, nutritious broths from the stocks and broths found in cans and shelf-stable aseptic boxes at the supermarket.

The Basics

Making bone broth is not a difficult undertaking, but it does require time and some effort. However, the most labor-intensive part, browning the bones and skimming out the solids from the finished broth (and picking off any salvageable meat once the solids have cooled) can easily be scaled up without much additional investment of time. Once you incorporate the practice of sipping broth and using it as the basis of soothing, nutritive meals, you will be amazed at how much you can go through.

The Tools

You can make Bone Broth with any large pot and a strainer, but to make a stellar batch of broth, having the right equipment will make the process more efficient:

  • A stainless steel stockpot. No need for a super-expensive, heavy-bottomed pot since you’re just simmering water, not browning meat.
  • Several large, heavy, rimmed baking sheets or roasting pans for roasting bones.
  • A ladle for skimming off impurities as the broth simmers.
  • A spider skimmer. Like a coarse-mesh strainer with a long handle, this web of wire mesh allows you to remove bones and vegetables from the broth without losing any of the liquid.
  • A fine-mesh strainer to strain your broth to a clearer finish. If you are concerned about leaving stock simmering on your stove unattended, many of the recipes here could be halved and prepared in a large-capacity slow cooker. Bring it to a boil on high heat, then reduce to low to simmer. I prefer to simmer broth without a lid to encourage evaporation and concentration, so I would leave the lid off the slow-cooker while the broth simmers.

          The Best Bones for Broth and Where to Find Them

          When industrial farming took over and local butchers became fewer and farther between, the nose-to-tail approach to cooking fell out of favor. People got squeamish about all those “nasty bits” that are chock-full of nutrients and necessary for a quality, nourishing Bone Broth.

          Bones, cartilage, tendons, a little meat—these are the parts that form the most nourishing, flavorful broths. Bones from beef, lamb, and pork are classified into a few categories: neck bones, knuckles (the name for any type of joint), feet, and mixed bones (all other bones, including shoulder blades, ribs, legs, breast bones). Beef has an additional type of bone—marrow bones, also called pipe bones. For best results, your broth should contain some of these bones because they’re integral to the broth’s nutritional benefits. But bone alone does not create a rich, flavorful broth. You need meat for that. So, necks and oxtails are my favorite bones—they have a little meat attached, which means flavor, and they have cartilage, which means more collagen. 

          As for poultry, good bones for broth include necks, backs, and cages. Cages are the entire carcass minus the parts that are packaged and sold individually: the breasts, legs, thighs, and wings. To really maximize the gelatin content of chicken broth, add feet. The easiest way to make a richer chicken broth? Add wings.

          What you should go out of your way for, however, is ensuring you have the very best ingredients you can get your hands on. The quality of the bones you use in broth is incredibly important. Broth delivers the components of animal bones in a concentrated form, so select the best-quality bones your wallet allows.  Ideally, choose bones from grass-fed cattle and lamb, pasture-raised poultry, and wild-caught fish. USDA-certified organic, certified humane, no antibiotics added, and hormone-free are good qualifiers too.

          How to Find Bones

          • Visit a local butcher, particularly one that specializes in butchering whole animals. He will have feet, necks, knuckles, and other bones that you won’t find at most supermarket meat counters.
          • If your local farmers’ market has a vendor who raises grass-fed and/or pastured animals, ask if they will sell you bones.
          • Order bones online from U.S. Wellness Meats, which sells bones from grass-fed beef and lamb and free-range poultry. Tropical Traditions is another online option for quality broth bones.
          • Save leftover bones and whole carcasses from all chicken, duck, turkey, beef, pork, lamb, and fish you cook. Build a stockpile in your freezer. You don’t have to wait until you have 10 pounds of bones from one type of animal to make a broth. Broths made from mixed bones are delicious.

          Roasting Bones

          Roasted bones impart a darker, richer color and extra depth of flavor to broth. It doesn’t affect the nutrition of the broth one way or the other, though, and your broth won’t be adversely affected if you opt out of the roasting step in any of my recipes; the flavor will just be slightly different.

          In some cases, there is value in using unroasted bones. The end goal with a classic Jewish chicken broth is that it be very light in color, so you wouldn’t use roasted bones there. You can also skip roasting when making broth or stock to be used as a foundation for sauces.

          Whether you choose to roast or not, it’s always a good idea to give the bones (including bones that have meat on them) a quick rinse in cold water to remove excess blood before cooking.


          The Right Ratio

          Maintaining the proper ratio is critical to achieving a nutrient-dense, flavorful Bone Broth. After it is cooked and chilled, the ideal broth thickens to a jelly-like consistency.  One of the common reasons a broth fails to gel is that too much water was used and the gelatin is too diluted. The amount of water you need depends on the amount of bones you’re cooking. The bones should be covered by 2 to 3 inches.  This ensures there is enough room to skim effectively with a ladle and that the bones stay fully submerged, but it isn’t enough for them to swim around in the pot.

          Don’t overfill your pot; you want about 2 inches between the level of the liquid and the rim of the stockpot so it doesn’t boil over and make a mess. If your pot can’t accommodate all of your bones with 2 inches of water and 2 inches of headspace, use a bigger pot or just set aside some of the bones for your next batch of broth.

          Avoid whole carcasses, instead, consider using a cleaver to chop the carcass into smaller pieces, As with most things in life, it’s all about balance. If you fill your pot with too many chopped-up bones and little liquid, you get overly concentrated broth with barely any yield.  While your broth simmers, check periodically to make sure the bones are still completely covered by liquid.  I leave my broth uncovered while it’s coming to a boil and while it simmers to encourage evaporation and concentration in flavor.  I find my broths have reduced by about ten to fifteen percent in volume by the end of the cooking process.

          Flavoring Your Bone Broth

          The most basic element of broth is, of course, water. Water from the tap has chemicals in it, so whenever possible use filtered water.  

          The next addition to your broth is the aromatics: the vegetables, herbs, and spices that add flavor to the broth and increase its nutrient content. Aromatics are added to the pot after skimming because they would get in the way of that process. Also, they don’t need to cook as long as bones and meat do, nor do they give off impurities that need to be skimmed away. The classic trio of onion, carrot, and celery is in all of our broths, but parsnips, leeks, fennel, celery root— anything works except cruciferous veggies (those add bitterness).

          Peel the onions because the skins impart a bitter flavor. If you are using organic or farmers’ market carrots, a good scrub is fine, but if you’re using conventional supermarket carrots, peel them first. Halve onions and quarter the halves, and roughly chop other vegetables into 2-inch chunks. In addition to the vegetables, add bay leaves and fresh parsley or thyme, along with peppercorns for flavor.

          To Salt or Not to Salt?

          There aren’t a lot of strict “rules” when it comes to broth, but this one is indisputable: Don’t add salt until the end. If you salt at the beginning, prior to reducing the broth and concentrating its flavor, you’ll end up with an oversalted mess. Never add salt until the end, after cooking and straining.

          Skimming

          Proper skimming is critical to achieving a clean clear broth. The frothy brown impurities and fat that rise to the surface of the broth need to be skimmed out with a ladle about every 20 minutes for the first hour the broth simmers. Once the aromatics are added, skim as needed.

          Cooking Time

          The length of time required to extract flavor and nutrients from your ingredients depends on the size and type of bones you’re using. You could chop a bunch of chicken wings into small pieces with a cleaver and make a delicious broth in 1½ hours.. But if you’re making a beef broth and using huge beef knuckles, or large, unchopped poultry bones, that broth needs to simmer significantly longer to allow time for the bones to break down and release flavor and collagen.

          For most chicken broths, 6 hours is plenty of time for the connective tissue in the bones to break down and release collagen and minerals into the liquid. Even the beef and lamb broths made with large bones don’t need more than 16 to 18 hours. It’s not harmful to cook longer than that—you can’t cook a stock too long—but it’s not necessary either. After about 18 hours, even those large bones have given up all the nutrients they have to give.

          Storing Broth

          Meat, poultry, vegetable, and mushroom broths will keep in the refrigerator for 5 to 7 days. Fish, clam, and lobster broths have a shorter lifespan— 3 to 5 days. All will last for months in the freezer. When I make a batch at home I always leave a couple of quarts in the fridge because I know I’m going to use them within a few days; the rest goes in the freezer. How you plan to use your broth informs what type of containers you should use. If your broth is for sipping, 12-ounce or pint-size glass jars are great. For making soup widemouth 1- or 2-quart jars are the way to go. Silicone or old-fashioned metal ice cube trays and muffin tins are perfect for freezing broth in small amounts to be used for making a quick pan sauce or sautéing vegetables.

          Always allow broth to cool for a few minutes before storing so you’re not splashing and sloshing super hot liquid into storage containers. After straining the broth, give it a good stir to aerate it and help it cool a bit more quickly.

          If freezing, leave an inch or two of breathing room between the lid of the storage container and the top of

          the broth, as the liquid will expand as it freezes. Though you will be skimming off the majority of the fat during the simmering process, you may find a layer of fat on top of your broth after it spends a night in the refrigerator. Just spoon off the fat layer and save it in a separate container to be used as a cooking fat. Use beef fat to pan-roast a steak, roast vegetables with chicken fat or cook fried chicken in it, and get to know how amazing potatoes are when they’re fried in duck fat.

          About Brodo Broth Co

          Born in the kitchen of James Beard award winning Chef Marco Canora, Brodo makes delicious, nourishing, slow-simmered bone broth from organic poultry, 100% grass-fed beef and fresh organic vegetables. Whether for heartbreak, stomachache or bone break, broth is the remedy hailed by grandmothers, shamans and doctors alike.

          Loaded with minerals, rich in collagen, high in protein and other amino acids, broth is said to rejuvenate the skin, reduce inflammation, fuel the body, nourish the mind. Most of all, it tastes really, really good.

          We remain dedicated to the ethos that is the soul of all of Marco’s cooking - using craft and care to deliver all the flavor and goodness of real food, prepared well. Visit one of our locations, get Brodo home delivery, buy our Bone Broth online (we ship nationwide) or contact us to discover more.

           Handmade | No Preservatives | Never from Concentrate